Friday, May 26, 2006

Who's Accountable?

In the never ending debate about accountability, I'd like to bring into the discussion the Central Offices of school districts. In his book Common Sense School Reform, Frederick M. Hess writes:

Status quo reformers support guidelines as to what content will be taught, becuase these encourage teacher collaboration and better enable teachers to work with students who switch schools. Status quo reformers are for "authentic" assessments that try to capture everything a student whould know. They talk about the need to use assessment to help teachers "talk with one another about how their students are doing," "stay focused on teaching well and meeting student needs," and "pay close attention to [curricular] alignment" (60).

There are certainly times when we as teachers feel that out Central Offices are "hawking" our every move. That when, despite our best instruction of the curriculum they have mandated, students do not succeed, they are looking to hold the individual teacher accountable. This feeling, whether a correct one or not, creates a system of distrust. The classroom teacher begins to feel that the Central Office really isn't supporting them, only dictating what to teach. The Central Office begins to feel that the teachers really aren't trying, only focusin on selfish desires.

When will Central Offices trust the teachers? Yes, some teachers will push against the system just to maintain the cozy, non-accountable job they've had for years. But I have to believe that the majority of teachers really want their students to succeed in school. And what bothers those teachers is a Central Office unwilling to bring them into the curricular decisions.

Let us not forget that those in the Central Office are no longer in the classroom. And for as much research data that they analyze, no amount of reading can replace the experiences of the modern day classroom. When test scores do not improve as intended, those driving the curriculum from the Central Office are a part of the problem. Who holds them accountable?


At 7:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do I ever agree with you! There is nothing more counterproductive than the idea that whenever a student fails, it must be the teacher's fault. It's unfair to the teacher, and it's not going to help students to tell them that someone else is primarily responsible for their own learning.

I also agree with your view that although there are some teachers who just go through the motions, most truly want their kids to learn. If nothing else, self preservation will cause most teachers want to do a good job. After all, can there be any job that would be more miserable to do poorly? An unprepared teacher isn't going to find any sympathy from a captive audience made up of bored adolescents. To be dealing with that hour after hour, day after day would be a nightmare existence. I know we've got a few gluttons for punishment, but I can't believe there are that many among our teaching ranks.

At 11:22 AM , Blogger Mike in Texas said...

We had someone from our central office, a curriculum person who hasn't been in a classroom in 8 years, give a Math benchmark test to 2nd graders. A 50 problem math benchmark! She then informed the teachers they had to transfer all of the kids answers to scantron sheets so the results could be easily digitized. For a typical 2nd grade teacher at our school this meant filling in 1000 little bubbles on scantron sheets.

The kicker was, the test was given on a Tuesday, the central office person wanted the scantron sheets turned in by Thursday, which also happened to be the same day grades were due.

At 8:28 AM , Blogger graycie said...

It seems as though an awful lot of admin either came from fields that are not 'core' such as music or guidance, or they spent a very few years at a single level of classroom involvement. I do NOT wish to denigrate people who teach subjects that aren't core, nor people who teach at any particular level, but if a person is going to be a 'downtown administrator,' that person should have a LOT of time in at a LOT of levels in areas that are under the pressure of standardized testing and accountability.

At 5:26 AM , Blogger KDeRosa said...

When test scores do not improve as intended, those driving the curriculum from the Central Office are a part of the problem. Who holds them accountable?

NCLB is directed at schools. Since the central office is at the school level in many states, NCLB gets them too. Teachers are not responsible for ailing schools under NCLB, the administrators are, even though they'll try to pass the buck down to the workers (teachers).

At 8:20 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...


While NCLB is intended to hold the school accountable, it is the teacher that will bear the brunt of the pressure, followed by the administrator. The Central Office personnell, Curriculum Coordinators, Assessment Officers, Human Resources Director, and Superintendant will be able to deflect the fault from themselves. I suppose it is the result of getting paid 2x to 3x as much as we insignificant teachers.
I would be very happy with everyone being held accountable.

At 8:24 PM , Blogger KDeRosa said...

Such is the workers' lot in life.

What teachers should do is voice their opposition when curriculum coordinators saddle them with lousy curricula and when administrators run the school lousily.


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